Dining

This Thing Now: Modern Jewish Cooking

Leah Koenig's new cookbook will change the way you think about Jewish food
Photo: Courtesy of Chronicle 
Babka

Jewish food has a funny reputation as old-fashioned; perhaps it's because recipes for classic dishes like Bubbe's matzo ball soup and brisket always seem to be passed down within families. And that's all well and good—tradition is a beautiful thing. But Leah Koenig wrote Modern Jewish Cooking (Chronicle, $35) for the next generation of Jewish cooks, the ones who, in her own words, "care deeply about culinary heritage, but understand that in order for the Jewish kitchen to thrive in the 21st century and beyond, it cannot be static. It must be vibrant, exciting, and ever evolving."

In Koenig's capable hands, classics are respectfully reinvented (butternut squash kugel with crispy shallots), and new stars are born (steak and za'atar fajitas). Chapters are extensive, and recipes go deep; Koenig covers ground on everything from breakfast to matzo dishes to meat and vegetarian mains to breads and pastries and cookies, cakes and other sweets (like the outrageous-looking chocolate-raspberry babka pictured above).

She also offers menus for major Jewish holidays (including Passover, which starts April 3 this year) but encourages cooks of all backgrounds—"whether you've kneaded challah dough zero times or one hundred"—to dive in. Bubbe or no bubbe, anyone with an interest in delicious food would do well to take her advice.

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